Alexander M. Wegner
ACROSS SECTORS AND ORGANIZATIONS leaders are commonly perceived to be in control through the power with which their status endows them. Despite such perceptions, the exact opposite is the case. Those who assume leadership of a team, are mere servants of its members, the respective organization, as well as society at large.
Business as usual, drawing much of its practices from the industrial era, reduces the employee to a variable in the production process -- one programmed to execute rather than to operate. The rise of the internet and the continuous transition toward knowledge economies, necessitates an organizational evolution.
As both computing and machine power turn evermore sophisticated, the distinguishing characteristic of mankind -- its intelligence -- becomes critical. Realizing opportunities and mitigating challenges within a highly dynamic world, necessitates constant learning, critical thinking, creativity and a sense of purpose.
Amid an age in which the possible can, more often than not, come to be reality, the imaginative capacity of organizations is the bedrock of long-term value. Virtually everyone -- regardless of race, gender, age and class (if not of location) -- is more powerful than ever before in human history, given the liberties and tools available.
Organizations, engaged in commercial activities, can thus only succeed with, not at the expense of consumers. Apple, Facebook, Google, PayPal, Uber and Virgin Atlantic are part of the next-gen businesses set to emerge in the course of this century. Their power stems not from the control exerted but the services delivered.
At the macro-level, this translates into an incredibly interactive world, in which the desires of masses will shape the outcomes for billions -- for better or for worse. At the micro-level, this calls for the re-engineering of leadership: talent will have to replace labor, trust will have to supplant control, potential must outgrow confines.
The prospects of tomorrow's organizations and the world they will inevitably shape depend on the willingness of today's leaders to harness their power by empowering others. Rather than posing a risk, this turn from business as usual will generate opportunities, if grounded in a vision that renders work meaningful.
The bedrock of innovation is an environment of liberties and creativity, structured through trust in one another and faith in what can emerge at the horizon. The fruits of status and credentials will decay as quickly as the dot-com bubble burst, and as sudden as financial giants dissolved. Goodbye, Davos Men. Onward engineers!
A productive workplace is one in which people feel safe – safe enough to experiment, to challenge, to share information, and to support one another. --James Harter & Amy Adkins, HBR